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Peak Performance: How trainers prepare their players for the US Open

Peak Performance: How trainers prepare their players for the US Open

Working in a field that continues to evolve, IMG's Yutaka Nakamura and the USTA's Satoshi Ochi reveal their methods.

Since its inception, tennis has evolved more than perhaps any other professional sport. Bigger, lighter racquets rendered the classic wooden frame obsolete by the mid 1980s. Polyester strings came along in the 1990s, allowing players to swing as hard as humanly possible. These and other technological advances changed the physics the sport—and as a result, the sport's physicality, which has dramatically increased. Tennis is one of the most grueling sports in the world, and strength and conditioning have never been more important as they are now.

极速赛车双面盘For the players and their teams, the stakes don't get much higher than the US Open. The competitors will vie for a piece of the sport’s biggest prize: this year, a historic $57,000,000 total purse. For many players, a successful showing in Flushing Meadows can help ensure financial security for years to come. It is imperative that those players peak at the right time.

But how are players supposed to peak for the US Open—a tournament in month nine of a seemingly endless 11-month season。 We spoke with two of the top trainers in the sport, IMG's Yutaka Nakamura and USTA's Satoshi Ochi, to find out how they prepare their players for what could be the most important week of their lives。 


(From left: IMG's Yutaka Nakamura and USTA's Satoshi Ochi)

Nakamura, the Head of Tennis Physical Conditioning at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, has worked with many of the world’s best players, including Maria Sharapova, Kei Nishikori, Amanda Anisimova and Danielle Collins。

Ochi, the USTA’s Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, has worked with many top young Americans, including Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul, Bjorn Fratangelo, Frances Tiafoe, Jennifer Brady, Caroline Dolehide and Christina McHale。

Both Ochi and Nakamura agree that controlling the volume of a player’s workouts leading up to a big tournament is critical. If a player has a two-week training block before the US Open, they'll increase the intensity and duration of the workouts, then systematically taper down and decrease the volume as the event draws near. 

极速赛车双面盘“Closer to the tournament the workouts become more tennis specific,” Nakamura says, “you reduce the capacity and cut down hours, focusing on movement efficiency.”

Movement efficiency is crucial at the highest levels, with the best players almost always the best movers—see Djokovic, Federer and Nadal。 Every step must be deliberate; you don't have time to waste a movement。 

 One way Ochi helps develop movement efficiency is through single leg stability exercises. “With most tennis movements you start and end on one leg,” he says. 

Simply place a cone or object on the ground and, on one leg, hop back and forth. Be sure to stick and hold the landing to train balance and stability on the active leg. 

Both Nakamura and Ochi have hundreds of exercises at their disposal. Asking them to choose their favorite drill is like asking someone to choose their favorite song or movie. But both emphasize the importance of core strength. A strong core is the foundation of any successful athlete, and especially so for tennis players. Every shot requires some degree of body rotation; the stronger the core, the more powerful and controlled the rotation. 

Nakamura and his players at IMG spend a great deal of time developing rotational core strength. One of the best and most tennis specific exercises is the lateral medicine ball wall throw. 

All you need for this exercise is a medicine ball and a solid wall. Stand next to the wall with feet shoulder distance apart, and while keeping your core engaged, throw the ball against the wall, catching it on the rebound.


Whitney Osuigwe demonstrating lateral medicine ball wall throws at IMG Academy. Kathyrn Whartenby. 

If you don’t have a medicine ball, use a resistance band or bungee cord and mimic the throwing with controlled movements. 

Tommy Paul working on rotational core strength with Ochi at the USTA National Campus.

The importance of core strength in tennis can’t be overstated。 A strong core prevents injury, and allows other muscle groups to function more effectively。

Here, Amanda Anisimova is seen rotating a weighted instrument to work on what Nakamura calls “tennis specific rotational movement patterns。”

Amanda Anisimova and Yutaka Nakamura during a training session.

Ochi and Nakamura are responsible for more than customized training regimens。 They need to keep the players fresh, and not just physically。 

“Mental fatigue can affect performance,” Ochi says, “It’s our job to know where our player is at both physically and mentally。” 

“We ask lots of questions—what they ate, how they slept, we talk everyday,” he added. "Knowing the little things helps us understand where their stress level is.” 

Both Ochi and Nakamura emphasize the importance of rest. With so much global travel, athletes need to combat jet lag and exhaustion. 

“Sleep is huge for the player’s ability to recover,” Nakamura says. “The US Open even has a room for napping.”  

To help relax and recover at the same time, compression therapy has become increasingly popular. The athletes slip on a pair of goofy-looking inflatable pants. These pants apply systematic pressure to the lower and upper legs to stimulate blood flow activity and recovery. All you have to do is sit there—a perfect setup for the younger, smartphone-dependent generation. 

Ochi sets up a compression therapy device, a favorite recovery method of players.

Sports science and training methods have evolved considerably over the last decade. This has surely extended the careers of many top players, and is welcome news for Ochi and Nakamura. 

“Everything is becoming more professional, players now warmup their body for at least an hour before walking on the court,” Nakamura says. “Top juniors now behave like professionals, it’s the same process.”

极速赛车双面盘“Fifteen years ago players would travel by themselves and maybe with a coach,” Ochi remembers, “now almost every player has an entire support staff.”

As their field of influence expands, trainers control as many variables as they can, but it's up to the players to perform in between the lines。 But Ochi isn't worried。

"The players are ready," he says. "This is what they have been training for."


Wake up every morning with Tennis Channel Live at the US Open, starting at 8 a.m. ET. For three hours leading up to the start of play, Tennis Channel's team will break down upcoming matches, review tournament storylines and focus on everything Flushing Meadows.

Tennis Channel's encore, all-night match coverage will begin every evening at 11 p.m. ET, with the exception of earlier starts on Saturday and Sunday of championship weekend.


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